KBRW Radio produced in Barrow and streaming from the Top of the WORLD…
The station, which began broadcasting at noon on December 22, 1974, is the only radio station serving an approximate area of 88,000 square miles. It started modestly with a $180,000 grant from the State of Alaska and after 22 months of planning, KBRW began broadcasting with 1,000 watts of power and programmed music shows, hosted by a cadre of community volunteers. That signal was strengthened in the villages starting in 1988 with a series of five translators, one for each out-lying village served.
Barrow, Alaska is the United States’ most northern community and is located 330 miles north of the Arctic Circle and just 1200 miles south of the North Pole. The Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean surrounds Barrow to the west, north, and east. To the south, level tundra or permafrost (permanently frozen ground) stretches for some 200 miles until the Brooks Mountain Range begins, separating and isolating the North Slope (both a geographic and political designation) from the rest of Alaska. KBRW is the only broadcast outlet originating in the region and its AM signal (through a complex series of translators and repeaters) reaches approximately 90,000 square miles from the Canadian border to the Bering Sea.
Barrow is named after polar expedition sponsor Sir John Barrow, following an 1826 visit of British sailing captain, Frederick W. Beechey. Beechey is believed to be one of the first Caucasians to encounter the Inupiat (or “real people” as the residents called themselves in Inupiaq, the language of the Eskimo) and to sail around ‘The Point’ or a narrow spit of land that marks the northern edge of the continent. The village where Barrow now stands was known then as Ukpiagvik, or place where the snowy owl flies. These early people are believed to have migrated to this region thousands of years ago from Siberia, across the land bridge that is now the Bering Sea. These early people were nomadic hunters who lived in skin tents and sod homes. (Igloos are rarely found in this region.)
In the mid 19th Century, while commercial whaling and fur trading were a common sight in Barrow, these encounters with Caucasians had a significant effect on the local people like other indigenous people around the world. Rifles and liquor were introduced and a variety of diseases such as measles, small pox, and influenza. One particularly devastating strain of the flu killed more than 200 Eskimos in 1900.